Chicago.– The second meeting of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America convened last week–exactly one year and one day after the first one in New York– in Chicago’ s Hilton O’Hare Airport Hotel under the chairmanship of His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, the Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America.
The first-day session opened with prayers with 44 bishops present. Most Canonical Orthodox Bishops from Canada did not attend, as they are seeking to establish a separate assembly. At the beginning of the meeting a letter was read from Patriarch Irinej of Serbia conveying that the Serbian members of the Assembly could not be present at this meeting because of the needs of the Serbian Church.
The agenda and the minutes of the first meeting were approved. Archbishop Demetrios delivered his chairman’s opening address, and invited the vice-chairmen Metropolitan Philip of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, and Archbishop Justinian, the Representative of the Moscow Patriarchate to address the Assembly.
Archbishop Demetrios conveyed the greetings of His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and said that His All Holiness “as the First Throne of Holy Orthodoxy, is much desirous of encouraging and enhancing the unity of the Church, especially through the Pre-Conciliar Conferences that have come to be known as the ‘Chambésy Process’. ”
Archbishop Demetrios underlined the importance of this second meeting of the Assembly: “It is not without significance that we have traveled many miles to be with one another, in a spirit of fraternity, peace, fellowship and above all Christian love. As Chairman of this Assembly I am grateful for your prayerful and irenic presence, and I am hopeful that we will be able to move our nascent body forward with positive steps that will lead to tangible results for all the Orthodox.”
The Secretary of the Assembly, Bishop Basil of the Antiochian Archdiocese presented the Secretariat report. Another report and discussion followed on the agencies and endorsed organization of SCOBA (Standing Conference of Orthodox Bishops in the Americas). These agencies include the following: Eastern Orthodox Committee on Scouting (EOCS) – International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) – Orthodox Christian Education Commission (OCEC) – Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF) – Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC) – Orthodox Christian Network (OCN) – Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry (OCPM); and the endorsed organizations are: Orthodox Christian Association of Medicine, Psychology and Religion (OCAMPR) – Orthodox Fellowship of the Transfiguration – Orthodox Peace Fellowship (North America) – Orthodox Theological Society of America – Project Mexico – St. Catherine’s Vision, Inc. and Zoe for Life.
Speaking on this subject Archbishop Demetrios said “as the successor body to SCOBA, the Agencies and Endorsed Organizations are in need of direction from the Assembly, as to how and to what degree the relationship between these pan-Orthodox institutions and our Assembly will unfold. ” He also spoke of the great potential that lies ahead for Orthodoxy in America and around the world.
The Assembly continued its work on May 26, with reports from all thirteen committees: Canonical Affairs, Canonical Regional Planning, Church & Society, Clergy Affairs, Ecumenical Relations, Financial Affairs, Legal Affairs, Liturgy, Military Chaplaincy, Monastic Communities, Pastoral Practice, Theological Education and Youth.
In the decision taken:
Firstly, the Assembly expressed its desire to define more carefully its relationship to the agencies and endorsed-organizations which it inherited from SCOBA.
Secondly, the Assembly agreed on the great importance of the role of our military chaplains, who give spiritual support to our dedicated men and women who serve in the armed forces and are subject to the many hardships of deployment and combat.
And thirdly, the Assembly stressed the great importance of the Church’s ministry to the youth, and as a result, has endorsed three projected conferences to bring together Orthodox youth workers from all over North America.
The Assembly decided that it was prudent for itself to be incorporated as a legal entity, as this would bring the Assembly a number of benefits and would further its ability to act as a body. It therefore authorized the proper agents to move ahead with the work of incorporation. In addition, the Assembly reaffirmed its petition of last year to the mother churches, for the partition of the Assembly, by establishing Canada as a separate region, and joining Mexico and Central America to the region of South America. This represents also the desire of the Canadian, Mexican and Central American bishops. Lastly, the Assembly drafted and approved an official message to be issued in its name to the all Orthodox Christian faithful living within the region.
Upon conclusion of the second meeting, His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios presided at a doxology prayer service conducted in English, Greek, and the other languages of the participating churches. Following the service the hierarchs of the Assembly sat down for a farewell brunch of brotherly fellowship. The Assembly also issued an official joint message:
Christ is Risen!
“Glory to the Holy, Consubstantial, Life-giving, and Undivided Trinity.”
By the grace of God, we forty-five Hierarchs gathered in Chicago IL., on May 25-27, 2011, for the second meeting of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America. Several Hierarchs were prevented from attending due to personal illness, while our Serbian brothers, participating at a prolonged assembly of bishops meeting in Belgrade, were also unable to attend. All of us experienced what the Psalmist joyfully declares, “how good and pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!” (Ps. 132.1)
We draw inspiration from this resurrectional liturgical period, within which we have assembled, standing at the midpoint between the light of Pascha and the grace of Pentecost, the crossroad between the possibility of new life and the reality of renewed communion, the merging of the melody of unity and the beauty of diversity.
We call to mind our brother Hierarchs who have fallen asleep in the Lord during the past year: Metropolitan Christopher of Libertyville and Chicago (Serbian Diocese), Metropolitan Nicholas of Amissos (Carpatho-Russian Diocese), and Metropolitan Epiphanios of Bryoula (Ecumenical Patriarchate). May their memory be eternal!
In our deliberations as Orthodox Hierarchs, we manifested a spirit of conciliarity, expressing our commitment to proceed on all matters in collegial and collaborative manner reflective of the unity that characterizes the various jurisdictions of the Orthodox Church within our regional Assembly. In this respect, we once again affirm our desire and willingness to work toward “the swift healing of every canonical anomaly that has arisen from historical circumstances and pastoral requirements” (2008 Message of the Primates 13.1-2), following the decisions of the representatives of the Orthodox Autocephalous Churches regarding the “unswerving position and obligation to safeguard the unity of the Orthodox Church” (2009 Chambésy, Rules of Operation, Article 5.1a) and the promotion of “common action to address the pastoral needs of Orthodox living in our region” (2009 Chambésy, Decision 2c).
In accordance with our determination and decision during the 1st Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops (May 26-28, 2010), we focused and acted upon our understanding that we are successors of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA), assuming its agencies and ministries. Therefore, among the items on the agenda was the work of the Assembly’s 13 committees, its Secretariat, and its 14 agencies and endorsed organizations.
We offer thanks to God for the positive spirit of cooperation that prevailed during the sessions of the Assembly. We are pleased to report to our faithful what the committees of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops reported to their brother Hierarchs. The work of these committees will constitute the principal service of the Assembly, meeting frequently and regularly in order – with the participation also of lay members – to materialize the remarkable unity of the Orthodox Churches in this region. In this regard, we are inspired by the words of the Risen Lord: As the Father has sent me, I am sending you (John 20.21); and Truly, truly, I say to you: he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do. (John 14.12)
Thus, in addition to official reports by the Chairman, the Vice-Chairmen, the Treasurer, and the Secretary, the responsibilities of the following committees were discussed extensively: Canonical Affairs, Canonical Regional Planning, Church and Society, Clergy Affairs, Ecumenical Affairs, Financial Affairs, Legal Affairs, Liturgy, Military Chaplaincy, Monastic Communities, Pastoral Practice, Theological Education, and Youth. Moreover, the coordinators of the various agencies and endorsed organizations, formerly under the aegis of SCOBA, will convene with respective Hierarch liaisons in order to determine the criteria of their relationship and establish appropriate channels of communication with the Assembly.
In particular, the Assembly warmly received and unanimously encouraged the creation of a common ministry for our military chaplaincy and our youth.
Our prayers are offered to God at this time for those who have suffered from the extreme weather conditions in the last weeks, especially and most recently the tornadoes and flooding in Missouri and Oklahoma in the United States, and throughout the region of our Assembly, where epic catastrophe has struck numerous people with death, devastation, and damage. May God grant rest to the souls of the departed and may the gentle breeze of His Spirit grant the victims the strength to rebuild their lives. We fervently encourage our parishes to offer generous material, financial, and spiritual support.
We cannot remain silent in the face of atrocities and persecutions committed against Christian minorities by fundamentalists and extremists, in Palestine and Egypt, especially against the Christians caught up in the upheaval of the Arab Spring, which has unleashed long-oppressed diverse sectarian animosities. In particular, the Christian communities in Palestine and the Middle East have been drastically reduced and compelled to emigrate as refugees. We urge political leaders throughout the world to stop ignoring the manifestations of intolerance, discrimination and open persecution against all religious communities – Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike – living in contentious regions and countries of the world, notably in Northern Africa and the Middle East.
In light of the designation of June as “internet safety month,” we exhort our priests and parishioners to raise awareness and secure appropriate protection for our children and communities from the many and diverse prevalent dangers, including pornography, cyberbullying, perils by predators, risks of geotagging, and in particular dissension in the Church. Technology is not sinful; but the abuse of technology is a sin and a crime. We encourage our faithful to disseminate relevant internet safety literature, organize internet safety classes, utilize parental controls, and take rigorous advocacy measures to pressure wireless companies and carriers to mandate protective options.
Finally, we are united in wholeheartedly acknowledging and fervently blessing the tireless ministry of our parish clergy and their families, the honorable presbyters and deacons in the service of Christ, the brothers and sisters of our monastic communities, and all those who do charitable work, those who serve our holy houses of worship, those who labor, teach, and chant, and all the people of God, who await His great and rich mercy.
Truly the Lord is Risen!